In our last post, we surveyed the Last Supper as preparatory for the Lord’s Supper. This post will focus on Paul’s instructions about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22 and 11:17-34. But before we do that, let’s recall what we learned from the Gospels’ account of the Last Supper. Reason being, whatever we discovered there is meant to rollover into Paul’s instruction about the practice of the Lord’s Supper in our church-age. Concerning the Last Supper (for the Lord’s Supper), we learned:
- The Lord’s Supper is a look-back upon the redeeming work of Christ.
- The Lord’s Supper is a look-ahead to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
- The Lord’s Supper is a remembering of the ratification of the New Covenant.
- The Lord’s Supper is drawing a line around Christ’s disciples, the church.
- The Lord’s Supper is reaffirming our faith-commitment as Christ’s disciples.
- The Lord’s Supper is reaffirming our service-commitment to Christ’s disciples.
- The Lord’s Supper is equipping us for spiritual battle.
Now let’s take a look at Paul’s instructions. And we’ll just make a few notes in the order of the verses laid out above:
The Lord’s Supper is a participation in the benefits of Christ’s redeeming work (1 Corinthians 10:16). To be sure, ‘blood’ and ‘body’ here do not denote the literal blood and body of Christ. The ‘blood’ is still the fruit of the grape. The ‘body’ is still ‘bread.’ Paul’s point is to say, however, that something spiritually wonderful is really happening when we take the Lord’s Supper. The elements aren’t merely symbolic. It’s a presentation to sight and tongue of the Gospel and, as we see it and taste it, we are participating in the grace this meal represents to us. We’re receiving Christ anew in the sense, as above, of reaffirming our faith in Him, while being nourished by it’s Gospel truths, even as we might in a sermon.
The Lord’s Supper (as with baptism) makes the church visible (1 Corinthians 10:17). This is very important. What’s the difference between random Christians accumulating to shop at Ingles and a local church? Well, a local church is more than any random gathering of Christians. It’s a group of Christians that have committed themselves to one another for the glory of Christ. And this is where the ordinances come into play. It’s how a group of Christians enact and display that commitment, yes, to Christ, but also to one another. As for the Lord’s Supper, we see in the verse mentioned that the ‘many’ are made ‘one body’ because ‘we all partake of the one bread.’ Paul’s saying that (with baptism) it’s participation in the Lord’s Supper that actually constitutes a local church, takes the many and makes them one! It’s what differentiates a Christian conference from a local church. It’s what marks us off as a body. In it, as above, we reaffirm our service-commitment to one another as heirs of grace and glory.
The Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance (1 Corinthians 11:17, 18). Note the repeated words ‘when you come together.’ Paul’s saying at least two things: one, the Lord’s Supper is a Christian ordinance. It’s not for all. It’s for Christ’s people. Two, it’s a church ordinance. It’s normative practice is restricted to the gathering of the local church. Again, what’s the Lord’s Supper doing? It’s making the local church visible. It’s not just revealing, ‘here’s a Christian,’ but ‘here’s an assembly of Christians covenanted together as a Gospel people.’ ‘Here’s a local church.’ Additionally then, the Lord’s Supper isn’t for all Christians indiscriminately. In 1 Corinthians 11:29, Paul makes this clear by a point we’ll tackle in the next post. The point here, remembering again what the Supper does, is to say that only Christians who are members of a Gospel-believing local church should participate in the Lord’s Supper. Membership matters! Having a church affirm your profession, and you commit to them, becoming one with the many, that matters! Indeed, it’s how you’re faith is objectified. Become a visible member of the family, then you can participate in the family meal.
Devoted to the most Scriptural display of Christ’s glory in and through you,